Coffee Alchemy: using natural sugars in your coffee

As we’ve described in our other Coffee Alchemy articles on the grind of your beans and the water you use in your coffee, your perfect cup shouldn’t be bitter but even the perfect cup isn’t exactly sweet. Those with a sweet tooth may enjoy a mocha or they may simply add a teaspoon of white sugar. In either case, these aren’t the only ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. Take a look through our list of alternative sweeteners.

Agave Nectar

Agave (pronounced uh-gah-vay) is a natural sweetener that comes from a succulent plant in Southern Mexico. Agave is popular due to its pleasant taste and low glucose levels.

The taste: Agave will give your coffee a slightly caramel taste, as well as some slight bitterness compared with sugar. Being a syrup, it needs some stirring to get it to disperse.

The verdict: Switching to agave instead of sugar probably isn’t going to make your daily coffee healthier. However, it does add sweetness without overwhelming flavour.

Raw Honey

Raw honey is not pasteurised or chemically refined, unlike commercial honey. This means it retains propolis, bee pollen and bee wax. For this reason, it’s thought that eating locally-produced raw honey could help those who suffer from allergies to air-borne pollen.

Raw honey also contains antibacterial agents and contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals.

The taste: Raw honey has a strong taste that can be very noticeable in your coffee.

The verdict: Honey, raw or otherwise, is very high in sugar. Since honey tastes sweeter than table sugar and is quite a strong flavour, you may find you need to use less in your coffee, which could reduce your overall sugar intake.


Stevia is enjoying a surge of popularity, as a plant-based, calorie-free sweetener that has no effect on blood sugar levels. Stevia comes from a native South American herb, and it’s 100 to 200 times sweeter than sugar.

Stevia is available from organic websites and stores in a green powder, which is less processed than the white stevia you can buy in the supermarket. It’s also available in a dropper if you’re feeling adventurous.

The taste: Stevia is certainly sweet, but it does have a bitter aftertaste that you may dislike.

The verdict: If you’ve been using artificial sweeteners in your coffee until now, give stevia a try. Although it does have an after taste, using it in moderation can still help take the edge off your coffee.

Rapadura Sugar

Rapadura is a brown sugar that comes from sugar cane, just like your typical table sugar. However, it’s much less processed, making it slightly richer in nutrients and relatively high in iron. It can be used exactly like white sugar, making it easy to know how much to use.

The taste: Rapadura has a rich caramel flavour that’s quite pleasant in coffee.

The verdict: Rapadura has a slightly better nutritional profile than white sugar, but it’s still sugar and should therefore be used in moderation.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is made by collecting sap from the flower buds of a coconut tree. The sap is boiled until it thickens and crystallises into sugar.

According to Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar, coconut sugar has some advantages. It is the most nutritious of sugars; it’s sustainably produced; and it has a low glycaemic index. However, she points out that it is still high in fructose (the part of sugar thought to be responsible for most negative health effects) - and therefore best avoided.

The taste: Like rapadura, coconut sugar has a pleasant caramel flavour, which is light and tasty in coffee.

The verdict: Coconut sugar tastes good and is slightly better for you than white sugar, but it's high in fructose.

Rice Malt Syrup

Rice Malt Syrup is produced by fermenting brown rice with enzymes that break down the starches, creating a thick, sugary syrup. Rice Malt Syrup contains maltotriose, maltose and glucose – but not fructose. This means it finds favour with David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison and Big Fat Lies; and Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar, who both condemn fructose as the cause of sugar’s negative effects on the body.

Rice Malt Syrup is a pleasant-tasting, sweet syrup which is relatively light in comparison to golden syrup.

The taste: You’ll definitely notice the difference if you substitute Rice Malt Syrup for sugar in your coffee. The taste is quite pleasant, but being a syrup it tends to sink to the bottom.

The verdict: Rice Malt Syrup performs well both in taste and in health benefits compared with table sugar.

We hope you enjoyed reading our roundup of sugar alternatives for your coffee. We certainly enjoyed researching it! Why not head to our Facebook page and let us know your favourite sugar substitute for coffee?

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Winter coffee recipes

Brrrrr! There’s a chill in the air, and at De’Longhi HQ our thoughts are turning to wintery walks and cosy firesides. There’s so much to love about crisp, cold winter mornings – especially after a scorching hot summer. But, when it’s dark and cold outside, it’s a wee bit harder to get out of bed in the morning. If you need a little extra motivation, why not try a spiced coffee to warm you up on those mornings when you just want to stay under the doona?

Most coffee shops have flavoured syrups in a variety of flavours, from gingerbread to cinnamon and nutmeg. Another option is to buy a syrup in your favourite flavour, and make your own at home. You could try Australian-made syrup from Alchemy, or the brand you see in most coffee shops – Monin.   

But, even better (in our humble opinion) is to make your spiced coffee from scratch. Fresh spices like ginger and cinnamon taste great and have a multitude of health benefits. We think the extra effort involved is completely worth it. Here are our favourite recipes for you to try:

Cinnamon Latte

Cinnamon contains antioxidants and has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. This recipe is incredibly simple – you probably already have the ingredients in your spice cupboard (make sure your cinnamon is no more than six months old, or it will lack flavour). We like the variation with cloves and cardamom pods as well as cinnamon – yum! If you prefer to keep your sugar intake to a minimum, you can reduce the amount of sugar by at least half.

Get the recipe

Gingerbread Latte

Ginger has been used to aid digestion for thousands of years. It also has anti-inflammatory qualities that can relieve swelling and pain (such as sore throats). This gingerbread latte recipe is one of the healthier ones we’ve come across, as it uses less sugar than many others – instead, it uses molasses as a sweetener.
Molasses is a dark syrup which can be found in most grocery stores. Unlike sugar, molasses contains vitamins and minerals.  
Get the recipe

Pumpkin Spice Latte

The pumpkin spice latte is a very American invention, which means that if you want to make one at home in Australia, you’ll have to be committed to going the extra mile. Firstly, the recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice, which you probably won’t find in your local grocery. But, fear not, as it’s very easy to make with a few store-cupboard ingredients. Here’s a simple pumpkin pie spice recipe. Canned pumpkin puree is another ingredient that’s difficult to find in Australia. We suggest making a batch of puree pumpkin and freezing it, so you have it readily on hand. Once you’ve got your ingredients ready, the recipe is quite simple, and very delicious.

Get the recipe

Masala Spiced Coffee

Masala coffee is a great alternative to the more familiar Chai spiced tea. This simple recipe contains cinnamon and cardamom. Cardamom is a good source of minerals, and it’s thought to help control heart rate and blood pressure. What’s more, it tastes delicious!

Get the recipe

We hope you have fun making these delicious winter-spiced coffees. Head to our Facebook page to share your favourite winter coffee recipe.   

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COFFEE ALCHEMY: The importance of water quality to your cup of coffee

In history, alchemists used a blend of science and magic to search for a way to transform base materials into something more valuable. In the spirit of alchemy, we recently explored how the right grind can transform your beans into the perfect cup of coffee. Today, we’re looking at the importance of water to creating the perfect brew.

Why is water so important to a great-tasting coffee?

Water typically makes up 98 per cent of a cup of coffee. Naturally, it follows that the taste of your coffee depends on the quality of water you use.

Fortunately, in Australia our tap water is chemically treated to kill dangerous bacteria - but it still contains many substances that affect its taste. In fact, the chlorine that’s used to treat our water can leave a strong odour and taste behind.

Then there are minerals such as calcium and magnesium which are deposited in water when it runs through limestone and chalk. The higher the mineral content of the water, the ‘harder’ it is; while ‘soft’ water is relatively low in minerals. Hot water acts like a solvent, extracting the flavours from the ground coffee beans during the brewing process – the amount of minerals in the water can affect the way this process takes place, which in turn affects the taste of the coffee.

According to James Hoffman in his book, The World Atlas of Coffee, “The hardness strongly influences the way the hot water and the ground coffee interact. Hard water seems to change the rate at which the solubles in the coffee go into solution, essentially changing the way the coffee brews at a chemical level. To make a broad statement: it seems a small amount of hardness is desirable, but anything from moderate to hard water does a poor job of brewing coffee, producing a cup lacking in nuance, sweetness and complexity.”

Running an internet search on ‘how hard is the water in my area?’ will turn up your local water authority’s website, where you can find out if you live in a hard or soft water area.

Filtering your water

Investing in a basic water filter will make a big difference to the taste of your water and your coffee. A well known brand is Brita, but there are many others on the market, that can be purchased quite cheaply. You could also consider fitting a water filter to your tap to save regularly refilling a filter jug.

Another advantage to filtering your water is that it reduces the amount of limescale, which will minimise the maintenance your coffee machine requires. Whichever way you choose to filter your water, make sure you clean your coffee machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will remove mineral build up, helping your coffee to taste better and your machine to function properly for the long term.

In exceptionally hard water areas, filtering may not be enough to remove all the minerals – in this case, bottled water may be the best choice for making your coffee.

Should I use distilled water to make coffee?

In a word, no. Distilled water has gone through a purification process that removes contaminants, but also removes magnesium and calcium. A small amount of these minerals is important for a smooth and balanced cup – with no mineral content at all, you’re likely to get a flat-tasting or over-extracted coffee.

The temperature of your water

The perfect temperature for brewing coffee is thought to be between 83° Celcius and 92° Celsius. The exact temperature within the range depends on personal preference, although coffee connoisseurs believe the more complex flavours of the coffee come out at the lower end of the scale. Some experts also say you should never pour boiling water onto your ground coffee, as you’ll ‘burn’ the coffee, damaging the flavour.

Hopefully we’ve convinced you of the importance of water quality to making the perfect cup of coffee. While it might take a little more effort, the results will speak for themselves. Happy brewing!

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COFFEE ALCHEMY: Why the grind of your coffee is important

The ancient practice of alchemy was a blend of the beginnings of philosophy, magic and chemistry. Alchemists searched for a mysterious substance named the philosopher’s stone, that would transform base metals into gold. They also believed in the elixir of life - a magical potion that would bring health, wealth and immortality.

At De’Longhi, there’s a magical potion we’re obsessed with. It’s called coffee: and there’s certainly an art and a science to making it well. In this series of two articles on coffee alchemy, we look at how to turn a basic substance, the humble coffee bean, into - well, perhaps not the elixir of life - but something pretty close.

Our coffee alchemy series will demystify the process of creating a great cup of coffee, by getting the fundamentals right – starting with the grind of your beans and looking next at the water you brew with.

Why you should care about the grind of your coffee beans

There are few aromas more appealing than freshly ground coffee beans. This rich, complex scent and correspondingly delicious taste, are what make a perfectly brewed coffee so, well – perfect! Getting that aroma and flavour from bean to cup is the obsession of the best baristas. And they know that the density of the grind can make or break a coffee.

Here are some tips to help you achieve the perfect grind.

The daily grind

First things first; you must grind your beans fresh each time you make a coffee. Why? Because grinding your beans increases their surface area, which means that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released quicker – either into the water, or into the air.

Put simply, if you let your ground beans sit around for more than 45 seconds, much of their beautiful aroma and rich complex flavour disperses into the atmosphere and not into your coffee. This can make for a dull, flat-tasting coffee.

Match your grind to your brewing method

There’s a balance to be struck between the density of your ground beans and the method you’re using to brew your coffee. When your beans are finely ground, you increase their surface area, so the hot water has more coffee to act on, releasing more flavour. This means that coarsely ground beans need to be exposed to the hot water for longer than finely ground beans.

Different methods of brewing expose the beans to the hot water for different lengths of time, and at different pressures and speeds. Bringing the coffee particles out of the beans in this way is called ‘extraction’, and it’s a fine art. If your coffee is under extracted, the crema will be thin with large bubbles and the body light and watery, whilst the taste will be weak. If your coffee is over extracted, the crema will be a thin dark foam and the body will be weak, whilst the taste will be strong and astringent. An espresso grind, for example, should be fine to very fine; while a stovetop espresso maker needs a slightly coarser grind.

What does this mean for the home coffee maker? Whichever method you’re using, if your coffee is a little weak, try a finer grind next time; while if your coffee is too strong or bitter, try a slightly coarser grind.

This Coffee Confidential article provides a handy table showing which grind to use for which brewing method.

Match your grind to your bean

All coffees beans behave differently in the grinder. For example, darker roasts are brittle and should therefore be ground more coarsely, while a lighter roast can be ground finely. The origin of your coffee also has a bearing - coffees from higher altitudes need to be ground more finely than those from lower altitudes. Very high altitude beans include those from Ethiopia, Colombia, Kenya and Guatemala. Medium to low altitude beans come from Brazil and Hawaii.

Remember that when you try out a new type of coffee bean, you may need to change the density of your grind.

Choose a good quality grinder

There are two main types of grinders available – the burr grinder and the blade grinder. A burr grinder results in a much more even grind, which is a good thing. When the beans are smashed in a blade grinder, the resulting grind consists of bigger pieces and very finely ground pieces, which leads to a coffee that’s both over extracted and under extracted.

A difference of mere hundreds of a millimetre in the grind can make a difference to the taste of the coffee. This makes it especially important to have a good burr grinder espresso - one that can grind the beans to a very fine (but not too fine!) density.

We hope these tips help you to experiment with your grind and brewing method, until you find the magical combination that’s perfect for your tastes.

Don't forget to check out De'Longhi's great range of coffee grinders.

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Anzac Cookie Recipe

Anzac cookie ingredients

Rolled Oats – 1 cup

Plain Flour – 1 cup

Brown Sugar – 2/3 cup

Shredded Coconut – 2/3 cup

Unsalted Butter – 125g

Golden Syrup – 2 tbsp

Bicarbonate of Soda – ½ tsp

How to make Anzac Cookies

1. Add the oats, flour, shredded coconut and brown sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix together using a wooden spoon.

2. Use a frying pan and a medium to low heat to melt the butter. Mix in the golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda and stir/heat until fully melted and slightly frothy.

3. Pour the butter, syrup and bicarbonate of soda mix over the dry mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats are covered.

4. Once the mix is cool, pat the mixture into cookie shapes roughly 4cm in diameter and 1/2 cm thick. Place into your De’Longhi Multicuisine with roughly 2 cm space between each cookie (they will expand as they cook).

5. Set your Multicuisine to bake (the small cake symbol) then use the plus and minus buttons on the right of the machine to set it to 12 minutes bake time. If you do not own a Multicuisine, preheat your oven to 170 degrees and bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Use tongs to remove cookies from the Multicuisine and place on a plate to cool. Then make yourself a nice cup of Earl Grey tea and enjoy!

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